Have a job offer in-hand and wonder what comes next? Or, would you just like to be prepared for when the day comes? Surprisingly, there's a lot more to consider than just the salary when evaluating a job offer.
EXPLORE AND RESEARCH SALARIES
Recent legislation in California, and many other states, requires companies of a certain size to directly display the salary range in the job description. You can find out more about the Pay Transparency Act here. When considering the salary of an internship/job you are applying to or already have an offer for, use the following sites to benchmark whether you are being offered fair market value.
Great place to search by job title to explore occupations, salaries, job-growth trends, and to get a snapshot of any given job on a daily basis.
Salary information by company and position based on data shared by users. Also, includes insights for the interview process.
This information is based on surveys filled out by SCU grads six months after graduation.
For students interested in working for start-ups, here is a salary tool that may be useful:
Add information related to your education, employment history, and other factors to create accurate compensation and guidance.
An additional resource that offers information on jobs, companies, and salaries based on employee submissions.
Salary information submitted by users and verified for legitimacy for different roles/companies based on level of seniority.
A database of California public employee salaries.
EVALUATING JOB OFFERS
As with any discernment and decision-making process, it will ultimately come down to weighing risks and benefits in that particular moment/season in your life. With that context in mind, consider some of the following as you evaluate your job offer(s):
- Is the work environment (team, culture...), position duties, and management style a good fit?
- Does the company maintain values and a mission statement that align with your own values and guiding principles?
- What are the opportunities for career growth and upward mobility?
- What skills or experience can you expect to gain?
- Location & transportation: Will you need to commute? Does the job’s location align with your lifestyle and preferences? Does your employer provide relocation assistance?
- Remote vs in-person: Does the modality of work align with your interest and needs?
- Job security: Evaluate the stability of the industry and the company’s performance to gauge the job’s long term security.
- Are you being offered a fair market value for your skills and experience? How does this offer compare to similar job titles at other organizations?
- What employee benefits are offered by the organization? Do these benefits offset the salary? A benefits package typically includes health insurance, retirement plan(s), vacation days, paid time off, and potentially some other perks like gym memberships, flexible working hours, tuition assistance/reimbursement, and/or Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP), which offers company stocks at discounted prices for employees to purchase.
Consider using a cost of living calculator and/or GoinGlobal if you plan on working outside of California. A salary offer may be lower, but may net you a higher living standard depending on the state.
Check out this article for additional prompts to help you discern and evaluate your job offer.
Review your Employee Benefits in your offer package. You may be surprised that a lower paying job with great benefits can put you ahead when compared to a higher paying job with mediocre benefits. Your recruiter or a member of the Human Resources team at the company will be able to share details with you about the company's benefits. Below is a quick overview of some common items:
- Health Insurance: The most common benefit is health insurance. Carefully review the company’s options to determine the right plan for you. This may also include dental, vision, and disability insurance.
- 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan(s): 401(k) plans are often offered by for-profit companies, whereas 403(b) plans are often offered by non-profit organizations and government entities. In both cases, eligible employees contribute to their retirement accounts through pre or post-tax money. Some companies/organizations will even match employee contributions up to a certain percentage of their salary.
- Paid vacation and sick time: Depending on the company structure, these benefit offerings can be in the same or in separate buckets. Some companies will have you accrue vacation and/or sick time per pay period, while others offer you with some to start.
- Holidays: Be aware of the company's recognized holidays and whether there are any special considerations for working on holidays.
- Life Insurance: Generally your employer will pay for the amount of one year’s salary, while giving you the option to purchase additional coverage.
- Stock Options: Your employer may offer stock options as part of your overall compensation package. A common type is Restricted Stock Units (RSUs) and typically has vesting periods determined by the company. RSUs may be a part of the initial compensation package, but may also be offered as part of an employee’s bonus, pay raise, and/or promotion. To learn more, check out this terminology guide and this article for a breakdown of how stock options and vesting work.
- Flexible Spending Accounts: This account will allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for qualifying medical and daycare expenses. Flexible spending accounts are a great way to decrease your taxable income.
- Other Possible Perks: Companies may offer things like commuter passes, complimentary snacks or meals, education reimbursement, etc.
- Professional Development: Ask about opportunities for skill development, training, and attending conferences or workshops to enhance your career.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Inquire about the company's policies on remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks.
- Bonus and Commission Structures: Inquire about performance-based bonuses or commissions and how they are determined.
- Parental Leave: If applicable, understand the company's policies on maternity and paternity leave.
- Employee Assistance Programs: Find out if the company provides complementary resources to support employees' mental health and well-being.
All of this contributes to the total value of the job itself and often helps job seekers make final decisions between offers with similar base pay.
As a new college graduate, you may consider negotiating your salary. Though negotiating an offer is probably a bit intimidating, remember that it is a common part of the job search process and most employers are expecting candidates to negotiate.There are both risks and benefits to negotiating. Before you negotiate, consider the following:
- How does your existing offer compare to what the company typically pays for in that role and location?
- Revisit the salary range displayed in the internship/job posting. Find out more about the Pay Transparency Act.
- One question to ask yourself: Do I possess qualifications above and beyond what is listed in the job description? If the answer is no, it’s likely you do not have a credible reason to ask for a higher salary. As you gain more experience, skills, and expertise, you will have more leverage to negotiate.
- Are you being offered a fair market value for your skills and experience? Do your research first–don’t negotiate only for the sake of negotiating.
- On gender pay gap and the role of negotiation: the unfortunate reality is that the gender pay gap exists, and that gap is even wider for women of color. We especially encourage students from marginalized communities to pay close attention to your offer letters, assess your contexts and capacity for risk at that time, and negotiate for fair market compensation. Please seek out support with trusted adults and/or schedule a 1:1 with a staff member to talk through the process if needed!
- Large companies often have pre-determined starting salary ranges based on market compensation analysis. These starting salaries are often non-negotiable and employers will likely mention that upfront.
Though not frequent, companies do sometimes rescind offers when candidates negotiate their salaries (or negotiate in general). Before you begin negotiating your offer, it is good to first ask if they are open to discussing the terms of the offer. If the employer states clearly that they are not open to negotiating, then do not proceed.
Tips for negotiation:
- Always negotiate in person or over the phone, never through email: Once you are talking with the person, start by expressing your gratitude for the offer and how excited you are to be offered an opportunity to work for the company. Next, add that there are one or two things you would like to discuss before signing the offer letter.
- Do not negotiate everything: Decide on one or two things that are important to you. Keep in mind that items like health benefits, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts are typically not negotiable.
- Know your worth: Assess your skills, qualifications, experience, and achievements. Understand how your unique strengths align with the job requirements to justify the salary you're seeking.
- Frame the conversation in terms of mutual goals: Keep it neutral and impersonal. Instead of saying, "Can YOU increase the salary offer?" use a neutral phrase such as "Does THE COMPANY have any flexibility to increase the salary offer?" And ALWAYS have a number in mind, because they’ll likely ask for that.
- Be patient and confident: Negotiations take time, and it's crucial to be patient yet confident in your value. Avoid accepting an offer immediately; instead, express gratitude and request 2-3 days to consider it. Keep in mind that salary negotiations often require the involvement of several individuals in the company, not just your main contact.
- Be open to alternatives: They may suggest a signing bonus or early review if there is no flexibility on salary. Remember, salary is only one piece of your offer package. Consider other aspects of the offer which include employee benefits.
- Look for a mutually acceptable solution: This is the beginning of a long relationship, not a one-time competition.
- Know your bottom line: Be aware of what you need (your minimum requirements to support yourself) and what you want (your ideal starting salary).
- Anticipate counteroffers: Be prepared for counteroffers and think in advance about how you’ll respond to different scenarios.
- Summarize the agreed upon offer at the end and request the offer in writing.
- Reiterate your appreciation of their offer and their flexibility in meeting your requests.
- Always make sure the negotiated changes are reflected in the offer letter before you sign.
Other items to negotiate besides salary:
ACCEPTING AND DECLINING OFFERS
The Rule of Thumb
- Do not accept an offer before you are ready, but be aware of the offer acceptance deadline. Most offers have a deadline to respond. Once you accept a job offer, you should stop all other interviewing. When you get an offer you should confirm how long you have to get back to them.
- Once you make a commitment to start the job, it would be viewed as unprofessional should you renege on your commitment. Acceptance of an employment offer should be made in good faith and with the sincere intention to honor the commitment.
- If you find yourself in an ethical dilemma about having accepted a position and realizing that it was not the best decision for you, please discuss this with a trusted mentor or SCU Career Center staff member.
Sample Acceptance Email
Dear [Recipient's name],
I am writing in response to the job offer for the position of [job title]. Thank you for this opportunity to work with [Company name]. [Statement showing your gratitude].
I have reviewed the contract of employment. I am pleased to formally accept the position of [job title] and start my employment on [date]. Thank you once again for the position and I look forward to working with the team. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have other questions or require further documents from me.
More on accepting offers here.
Sample Decline Email
Thank you so much for considering me for the position of [Job Title]. After careful consideration, I’ve decided to pursue a position with another company that’s more in line with my current career path and personal goals.
It was a true pleasure to learn more about the excellent work you do at [Company]. I appreciate the time and consideration you gave my application and wish you success in your efforts to find the perfect candidate.
I look forward to hearing from you in the future. If there are any questions you have for me, please let me know.
More on declining offers here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
- Hiring is a long and resource intensive process. After you have completed the interview process and have accepted a job or internship offer, human resources and your future boss and team are likely relieved and excited to be bringing you on-board. Not to mention, rejection letters are sent out to all the other candidates. Put yourself in their shoes. How would it feel to start the hiring process over again?
- Companies do not take reneging (backing out after you've accepted an offer) lightly. You run the risk of jeopardizing opportunities for future SCU students by possibly damaging the recruiting relationship between SCU and the company.
- Recruiters (and hiring managers) change companies, so you never know when and where your reputation for reneging will follow you.
- Make sure you get an offer in writing that includes salary, job title, start date, eligibility for benefits, and a signature from the organization’s representative.
- Occasionally an employer may give you a much shorter time frame, possibly 24-48 hours to pressure you to accept an offer.
- Make an appointment in Handshake to discuss the offer you have received and how to negotiate with the employer if you need more time to make a decision. Some employers will extend the time, others will not, so you will need to consider your options carefully.
- Make sure you have given yourself enough time to properly evaluate the offer.
- If the position is not a good fit for you, demonstrate your appreciation and respect by turning down the offer as quickly as possible.
- Call the employer to verbally decline or write a brief letter.
Yes, but instead of basing your negotiation on discussions with the employer, you’ll need to do an adequate amount of research to determine (roughly) what a fair market value for that position is going to be.
Despite negotiation being quite common, you do not want to risk the employer misreading your tone, intention, and most importantly your enthusiasm about the job. It’s better to discuss salary and your offer with the recruiter or hiring manager through a live conversation.
This is extremely unlikely. As mentioned before, the majority of employers expect candidates to negotiate their offers and want to provide new hires with a positive experience in order to retain their workforce and minimize turnover. With that being said, have offers been rescinded before? Yes. If you approach negotiation in a respectful manner and the employer elects to rescind your offer in the end, it is possible that the employer was not the best fit for you after all.
It is not. Once you’ve signed the offer letter your offer is locked in. However, if you are a strong performer, pay raises, merit bonuses, market adjustments, etc. can still elevate your compensation in the long run.